A U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., today found in a 2-1 decision that auto manufacturers, petroleum refiners and grocery trade associations will not be able to challenge EPA approval of a partial waiver for E15.
The industry groups filing the complaint claimed EPA lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to grant a partial waiver, and it did not allow ample time for comment on its waiver decision. Further, they said E15 may damage engines, and petroleum groups claimed the E15 introduction means refiners would "necessarily" have to produce it.
The court, however, found the groups had no legal standing to bring forward an appeal in court.
Determining that there was no proof any engine has been or would be damaged by E15, Chief Judge Sentelle wrote in the opinion that the engine manufacturers provided little "evidence of a substantial probability that E15 will cause engine harm." He added that the engine products group's claim that E15 could cause an engine recall "convoluted."
"As for their recall theory, they have failed to establish any probability that the government would recall engines because third parties had misfueled. This leaves yet another weak link in their causative chain," Sentelle wrote.
Though the major question was if EPA could grant a partial waiver, the renewable fuels standard wasn't far from the minds of the presiding officials. Petroleum groups claimed E15 introduction into the marketplace is not a new fuel choice, but instead a necessary change for petroleum refiners and blenders due to RFS mandates.
Dissenting judge Kavanaugh argued, "Now that EPA has allowed E15 onto the market, producers likely can meet the renewable fuel mandate – but they must produce E15 in order to do so. So the combination of the renewable fuel mandate and the E15 waiver will force gasoline producers to produce E15."
With two votes to one, the dissent was overruled.
"In any event, Petitioners have not established that refiners and importers will indeed have to introduce E15 to meet their volume requirements under the RFS," the opinion said.
Ethanol groups are pleased with the court's decision. The American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Director Brian Jennings says the court's decision is a win for consumers.
"This is great news for consumers looking for more affordable options when filling up at the pump. This ruling tells the public that EPA's decision to permit E15 as an option wasn't a rush to judgment and that this fuel is safe," Jennings said.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen also voiced support for the court's decision.
“Today’s decision is an important step forward in the nation’s quest to diversify our nation’s fuel supply. Adding an E15 option alongside E10 and higher ethanol blends allows consumers to make the fuel decisions that work best for them and their vehicle," Dinneen said. "Ethanol has a thirty year track record of safe and effective use in the market place and that record will continue. Allowing for additional ethanol use will help lower prices at the pump, create domestic jobs, and accelerate the commercialization of new biofuel technologies.”
The first station selling E15 opened in Lawrence, Kan., on July 10.